Sean Herrin of Dulaney and Elizabeth Schlerf from Roland Park were the two main winners at the 77th Annual McCormick Unsung Heroes Awards Banquet on Monday night at Martin's Valley Mansion.
Herrin and Schlerf were the 78th and 79th winners of the Charles Perry McCormick Scholarship, worth $40,000 over a four-year period. It is given to one male and one female student-athlete each spring.
McCormick added a new twist to the event this year. The company handed our four new scholarships, two for $7,500, one to Justist Rice from Patterson and Kyran Brandon of Parkville while Janay Fenner (City) and Marquise O'Neal II (Poly) both received $5,000 scholarships.
Overall, there was an additional $25,000 given out this year, so a total of $105,000 in scholarships were awarded at the banquet to the honorees.
Herrin earned the award by helping in many ways away from the field. He works a lot with students who deal with disabilities, and does it in several places.
He played soccer for the Lions and served as a peer assistant on his Allied soccer team for players who have disabilities. Herrin also mentors disabled children in sports such as bowling, softball and ice hockey, volunteers at Kennedy Krieger's ROAR for Autism fundraiser and interned for three summers with a company that produces prosthetic limbs.
Herrin will attend UMBC in the fall and could not believe he was tapped for the honor.
"It is just huge," Herrin said after receiving the award. "It's absolutely [great]. I was not expecting this at all."
Schlerf plays soccer, basketball and lacrosse and did not receive many individual honors in her sports but was considered a big contributor.
She will attend Dickinson in the fall and liked some things that the night's keynote speaker, Ray Lewis, had mentioned in his message a few minutes earlier.
"Like Ray Lewis said, there is nothing better than giving your best," Schlerf said.
The winners were chosen from a field of 111 athletes recognized as Unsung Heroes. The program was started by the late Charles Perry McCormick Sr. in 1940 to honor athletes for unselfish team play and focus on the efforts of those who help the teams they play on find success, but do it quietly and often out of the spotlight.
Lewis gave the aforementioned speech, and the former Raven talked to the crowd about the importance of working hard and to keep chasing their goals, giving examples of his personal struggles.
Lewis described in great detail the way he got overlooked at times and the pain he dealt with — but never stopped battling and making very sure to please his mother. No matter what happened, though, Lewis would never stop giving his best.
The retired linebacker said those thoughts are what carried him a long way, and his message drew lots of laughs and eventually a standing ovation from the crowd.
"I've been always been that guy that nobody wanted to pay attention to," Lewis said during his fiery speech. "That's the thing that drove me crazy. Ask Peyton Manning. Every time I hit him I said, 'I'm coming right back.' Always be on edge. Don't ever settle. There is not a man alive who will outwork me."